Atlanta skipper Fredi Gonzalez is a patient man, but even he has his breaking point. And on the first week of September, Gonzalez finally cut the cord on his slumping second baseman.
Dan Uggla didn't start for the Braves on Sunday or Monday, and he's effectively been removed as the team's starting baseman. Martin Prado slides back to the keystone spot, and the team can do a handful of things in left field (Jose Constanza started there Monday, while the Monk's crew watched on satellite).
Uggla doesn't have a strong reason to contest the move. Although he's cracked 17 homers and posted decent run-production stats — mostly from staying healthy and showing up every day — he's hitting .208 and is generally a minus fielder. He's specifically been just about useless in the second half (slashing .182/.316/.331). The Braves have just reason to expect more.
The key takeaway for me is the risk that comes with this type of batter. Uggla strikes out a ton (28.1 percent this year, 23.3 percent for his career) and he's heavy on the fly balls (47.3 percent this year, 45.6 for his career). Anyone can go into a slump in this maddening game, but the high-K, high-FB player tend to be more slump-prone. And remember you're not getting any stolen-base kickback from Uggla; he's only grabbed two bags this year, and 22 for his career.
I'm not going to buy a bad-luck case for Uggla, either. His .271 BABIP is only 19 points below his established norm, and while his line-drive rate has climbed this year (18.7 percent), it's still below the league average (20.9 percent).
There aren't too many hard rules in my fantasy baseball playbook; most answers revolve around timing and context. That said, the only low-average batters I'm eager to roster in any season need to be dominant in other areas, or category-juice guys (by that I mean a combination of power and speed). When you mix Uggla's batting-average risk with his turtle-like ways on the bases, he's one of the easiest avoid players for me, year-in and year-out. (This is also why I'm never keen on Jay Bruce, even if 95 percent of the free world disagrees with me.)
Sure, I'm going to re-evaluate Uggla next year, and if the hate goes to a crazy level within the industry, maybe I'll consider a contrarian play. But as things stand right now, I doubt he'll be on my team in 2013. Too many rotoheads want to assemble a team of slow-pitch softball sluggers, and I want well-rounded bats in my rack.
And yes, in standard mixers, you should drop Uggla for 2012. There's no reason to wait around and pray for a miracle. What's done is done. Here are some possible middle pickups to help you out: Erick Aybar (back in form, 49 percent), Josh Rutledge (healthy again, 36 percent), Pedro Ciriaco (three positions and production is groovy, 32 percent) and Ryan Roberts (Maddon favorite, 21 percent). If you don't like those guys, fine — just find someone else. Uggla isn't the answer.
• Is Brandon League back in the Circle of Trust? On my clipboard, the answer is yes. League has racked up nine straight scoreless innings in the friendly NL backdrop (3 H, 5 BB, 13 K) and he has a win and a save in his last two appearances. He's passing the eye test and the spreadsheet test.
The usage pattern from Monday's win over San Diego is worth noting. Ronald Belisario entered the game in a seventh-inning jam, while League worked the tenth and eleventh innings with the score tied (that's routine work for a closer at home — a save is no longer possible). Don Mattingly is basically telling us, through his on-field decisions, League is the No. 1 chair in this saves chase right now. Mind you, League will probably need a rest after this two-inning stint (don't be surprised if someone else gets a Tuesday save), but if you have just one LA saves pick at the moment, League is your man.
• I know it's easy to laugh at the Astros and ignore them for fantasy purposes, but stay with me for a second and let's talk Tyler Greene. He's been a surprising power source since joining Houston (five homers in 21 games), and although the steals haven't kicked in yet, he's 26-for-30 over his career. A two-percent ownership tag is merely the Astros bias talking, and keep in mind he covers three positions (2B, SS, OF). He could turn into a Ciriaco type of story (though they do very different things) in the NL.
Brett Wallace isn't a bad deep-league play either. His .287/.352/.490 slash line is solid (if Eric Hosmer were doing that, everyone would throw a parade), and he's gone deep seven times over a modest 143 at-bats. The Astros did everything to keep him out of the lineup earlier in the year, but he has to play now. Wallace is also off to a good start against lefties, small sample size and all: 12-for-37, with a homer (this laser against Jeff Locke on Monday). The Houston swinger covers first and third base in Yahoo!, and like Greene he's only owned in two percent of our world.
• If you're looking for some September pop, give John Mayberry a look in Philadelphia. The Stanford product has eight homers in the second half (three in his last nine starts) along with an acceptable .287 average, and he's especially formidable against the southpaws (.297 average, .551 slugging). The Phillies host the Rockies this weekend (and a pair of ordinary lefties, Francis and Pomeranz), which makes it a good time to kick the tires on the thumper. Kid Mayberry is unowned in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Andy Behrens with the Yahoo! Fantasy Minute (Ed. note: longer than a minute)